Tuesday, December 24, 2002

The Washington Post brings some important point about the Bush pardons:
CHRISTMASTIME is the traditional season for presidential clemency, so it's no particular surprise that President Bush has belatedly issued the first pardons of his term. But the churlishness with which he finally exercised this most magnanimous of presidential powers deserves note. Mr. Bush pardoned only seven people, each of whom, a White House spokeswoman said -- as if to play down the importance of the action -- "committed a relatively minor offense many years ago, completed his prison sentence or probation and paid any fine, and has gone on to live an exemplary life." The message: No Marc Riches here. . . . Not even a story (the White House let the Justice Department announce the pardons). . . . Just some seasonal symbolism. . . . Now can we talk about Iraq, please?
The pardons were all for people who (1) committed mild offenses, (2) completed their time, and (3) had gone on to live good lives. In other words, these pardons were all about symbolism and had nothing to do with correcting potential injustices. For, after all, Bush doesn't believe it is possible for the criminal justice system to be wrong.
The federal inmate population today is larger than it has ever been; the role of pardons should be bigger than ever. Yet Mr. Bush could not find a single inmate who deserved clemency. By issuing an average of 3.5 pardons a year -- none of which carries consequence other than forgiveness for individuals who long ago served their time -- he announces, in effect, that the American justice system requires no check, just a Christmas card.
Have a happy new year!

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